Friday, December 04, 2009

Draw Day: Does It Even Matter?


From American Fooligan

It's finally here. This is the day where 2010 fever really sets in. The 32 team field is set and now we just have to see where the chips fall.

But, before the hoopla begins in about 3.5 hours, let's think about whether it even matters?

I do not think the draw is as important as many others will make it to be. My earlier posts on the probabilities were more about me trying to play with numbers. The group that the USA faced this past summer was about as tough as you could imagine (USA, Brasil, Italy and Egypt) and we made it through.

I think the worthier teams generally advance from the groups and after looking back on the 48 group stage games, I think the 16 teams that advance to the knockout round are the 16 teams generally playing the best soccer. Since the field expanded to 32 teams in 1998 (let's call this the Modern WC Era), we have never seen a team earn 6 points yet improbably be eliminated while a team advanced from another group with only 3 or 4 points. In fact, only twice in the Modern WC Era has a team that was eliminated in the first round had a positive goal differential (Spain in '98 and Portugal in '02).

A more important factor is what second round pairings would look like. I don't think France were better than Germany or Argentina in 2006 but we didn't have the chance to find out. I don't think Korea or Turkey were better than England in 2002, but both got further because England had to face champions Brasil in the quarterfinals.

All that said, I think the teams the USA is least likely to get a result against are Brasil, Spain, Holland, Germany, Cote d'Ivoire and France (if they can solve their midfield woes, Anelka is lethal and has a penchance for striking when the US is most vulnerable - at the beginning and end of games). Those teams have styles of play, levels of discipline and the personnel with which the US could have great difficulty coping.

Here in Rio, O Globo, the main newspaper disagrees with me and claims that the most difficult group for Brasil would include the US, Cote d'Ivoire and France. Wow, now that would be a true Group of Death. One mistake and you would almost certainly be put out. What that also means is that the Brasilians rate the US higher than Mexico! Take that Mexico!

I will be live blogging and twittering during the draw. If you're not already doing so, follow me @rishisehgal.

I can't wait! Which teams do you not want to face until later in the tournament?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love an "easier" draw but I don't think it matters all that much. With the exception of South Africa I don't think there are any weak teams in the 3 pots that will be grouped with the US. I'm just pulling for good locations for the group games - please give us one in Cape Town!!!